Sometimes, Spencer wonders if he accidentally signed up to be a bridesmaid rather than a best man and no one told him.
Three days before the wedding and, apparently, he has to go with Ryan to get his hair cut. Get Ryan’s hair cut that is. No one is coming anywhere near Spencer with scissors while Ryan Ross is around to offer ‘advice’.
Jon says he’s just going to drop Ryan and Spencer at the salon then head to his studio but he ends up wandering in with them. It probably has something to do with how his hand is tucked into Ryan’s waistband and not showing any sign of moving.
The first thing Spencer sees is Brendon. Of course, he thinks. Brendon’s wearing a plain black t-shirt and tight black jeans, his hair is straightened down over his forehead and long around his ears, complicatedly spiky on top and clearly all for show
Spencer feels himself get unexpectedly tense; it’s like every time he sees Brendon, he’s someone different.
“Oh my God, look who it is,” Brendon says when he spots them. “Don’t worry Mrs Borowski, I won’t let them steal me away from you.”
He’s standing behind a chair at one of the stations and Spencer can see him from every angle thanks to the mirrors lining the walls all around. He’s doing something with funny smelling liquid and putting small pieces of paper into a middle-aged woman’s hair. Perming some part of Spencer’s brain supplies. Sometimes he worries about the facts that he keeps stored in there.
Mrs Borowski laughs, turning faintly pink across her cheeks. “Don’t be silly,” she tells him. “You should go say hello to your friends.” She pats her hair. “It’s not like I’m going anywhere.”
Brendon bounces over to them. He claps his hands. “Oh thank God. Ross, tell me I finally get to get my hands on that thing you call a haircut. Please?” He lowers his voice, leans into Spencer. “He got it cut at a-” here he lowers his voice, shudders dramatically, “Chain.”
Spencer can’t help it, he laughs.
“Oh fu-” Ryan looks guiltily at Mrs Borowski, “Screw you.” He runs his hands protectively over his haircut. Now that Spencer’s looking at him properly, it does look like it used to when Spencer’s mom shaped both their haircuts around a pudding bowl. “You can tidy it up, okay? Nothing major.”
“Sure,” Brendon says. His grin is wide and innocent and Spencer doesn’t think he trusts it. Neither does Ryan by the look on his face. “I’ll be done in a minute,” he says, “Greta’ll take care of you until I’m ready to grace you with my presence.”
He smiles at a pretty blonde girl who comes towards them and takes Ryan’s arm. “I love your bracelets,” she tells him, leading him over to a row of washbasins.
“What about you, Jonny Walker?” Brendon asks, stepping up to Jon and running his fingers critically through Jon’s hair. Jon accepts it pretty graciously. “Doing anything with your hair for the wedding?”
Jon shrugs. “I was thinking about maybe brushing it?”
Jon, the asshole, gets to leave after that. Spencer isn’t so lucky.
He stakes out a disused station and buries his head in the first magazine he picks up and tries to ignore Ryan and Brendon next to him. If it were just him and Ryan, he’d be doing his best to mock the fuck out of Ryan, but with Brendon listening, he feels weirdly self-conscious.
Unfortunately the magazine doesn’t hold his attention. It’s kind of hard to rake up enthusiasm for Angelina Jolie’s new babies when Brendon’s ass is right there. Spencer doesn’t mean to by pervy but it’s hard to forget the feel of that same ass under his fingers and, yeah.
Maybe joining in the conversation is the safer option.
It’s weird, but even having spent an evening with Brendon (two evenings, one of them involving sex) Spencer doesn’t really know anything about him. It feels safer to ask now, like Ryan’s a buffer or something. Spencer doesn’t know why he’s interested.
For example, he doesn’t own this salon but, “The old lady that does is in Florida for the… well she went for the winter about three years ago. I hope she’s all right.”
Spencer can sense he’s being screwed with but he still can’t help but make a face.
Brendon and Greta giggle. “Dude, she’s fine,” Brendon says, waving his hands around. In the mirror, Ryan looks alarmed at how close the points come to the tip of his ear. “Her daughter has a new baby and an asshole husband so she’s helping her out. What? You don’t think I’m doing a good job?” He flutters his eyelashes at Spencer and Spencer can’t help it, he goes red.
“So,” Ryan says when they get outside. Spencer is kind of amazed by how much better his hair looks. Brendon’s managed to shape it so it falls long and wavy down to his jaw. He looks – and this isn’t something Spencer ever likes to think about Ryan – kind of hot. “So, Brendon has a pretty massive crush on you.”
Spencer manages, by working really hard, not to swallow his tongue. “Dude, you’re dreaming. He was flirting with you too, you know.”
Ryan rolls his eyes. “Well, duh, he’s Brendon. You made him blush a couple times though and no one can do that. I mean you did like, take him out…” He lets his sentence trail off but Spencer doesn’t know how to reply. He doesn’t know if Ryan knows Spencer slept with Brendon or not. He really hopes he doesn’t.
“That wasn’t. I’m not. He’s completely not my type,” Spencer splutters. Because sure, Brendon is gorgeous but he’s not… he’s so much. Spencer doesn’t have the energy for that. Besides, Ryan doesn’t know what he- what he and Tom said. Spencer knows that if Ryan knew about that he wouldn’t be doing this whole non-subtle defending of Brendon thing.
It’s weird, having Ryan looking out for anyone who isn’t Spencer. Spencer isn’t jealous exactly, it’s just… different.
They were meant to be meeting Jon for lunch, but Spencer cries off. He’s starting to feel kind of like an asshole.
Yeah, Brendon made a stupid bet about sleeping with Spencer but everything Spencer’s seen since has told him that Brendon’s a nice guy. He doesn’t deserve to get caught up in the middle of Spencer’s nervous breakdown, so Spencer’s going to have to put a stop to whatever it is they’re doing.
It’s the only thing to do, he tells himself, and doesn’t examine why he kind of doesn’t want to do that.
Spencer already has his phone in his hand by the time he unlocks Ryan’s front door. He has a plan. It’s not a plan that’s going to win him any friends, but he’s still going to do it. He’s going to call Brendon, explain that he’s an asshole and break up with him.
He really is. Despite how bright and excited Brendon sounds when he answers the phone.
“Spencer,” he breathes into the phone. “Spencer I am in the middle of turning an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan, so you’re going to have to be quick.”
Spencer pushes the door open and says, “Brendon.” He means it to be the start of something, but instead his words get stuck in his throat.
In front of him, is Tom. Lying on the sofa with some girl on top of him. They’re making out and she isn’t wearing a top. Her bra is black and lacy.
“Spencer?” Brendon prompts in his ear.
“Right.” Spencer is going to throw up. “Have dinner with me tonight?” he asks in a rush and wait, what, that wasn’t what he meant to say. His brain is broken though, scarred, and he turns on his heel and marches through the house.
“Spencer,” he hears behind him but he doesn’t stop. Just presses his phone closer to his ear and listens to Brendon instead.
Spencer borrows Ryan’s car for the night and goes to pick up Brendon. He ignores the look Ryan gives him when he hands over the key, ignores every attempt Tom makes to talk to him, and ignores Jon just on principle. That last one, he feels kind of shitty about.
Brendon opens the door, dressed nicely like Spencer told him to be.
There’s a scrawny, yappy, dog… thing dancing around behind his feet. It’s wearing a scarf and a tiny knitted jumper and Spencer doesn’t want to know.
“Ready?” Spencer asks. It comes out abrupt and Spencer forces himself to take a breath. None of this is Brendon’s fault.
Brendon smiles widely. “Sure,” he says, grabbing up his keys and yelling a goodbye over his shoulder. He’s such a blur of motion that he’s half way to the car before Spencer realises that his smile didn’t come anywhere near his eyes.
In the car, Brendon takes over the radio but he doesn’t try to start a conversation. “Okay?” Spencer asks. He can’t think of anything that he’s done to make Brendon go cold on him. Well, he can’t think of anything Brendon knows about, anyway.
“Good, totally good,” Brendon agrees. His foot is jittering against his knee.
Spencer looks at him but they don’t really know each other, not well. He’s not sure he has the right to demand Brendon tell him the truth.
“So I booked a table at Larezni’s,” he says, once they’re moving. He can’t exactly afford it but if there’s one thing Spencer’s good at, it’s budgeting. He’ll get by.
Brendon makes a startled sound. “What’s this, Spencer Smith?” he asks, brightly. “You’re taking me to the most swankified place in town?”
Spencer forces his fingers to loosen on the steering wheel. “I am,” he agrees. He’s going to take Brendon on the best date ever and then he’s going to make out with him and, somewhere, Tom Conrad’s soul is going to die.
Spencer is apparently a really bad person.
“Awesome,” Brendon says but it wavers on the end.
Spencer slows the car. “What’s wrong?” he asks, ignoring the horns of a couple of cars that pass them.
Out of the corner of his eye, Spencer sees Brendon lick his lips quickly. “Nothing. I just. It hasn’t been the best day ever, I guess.” He forces out a laugh. “It’s nothing. Ignore me.”
His foot is still jittering and now his hand joins in.
Automatically, Spencer reaches over the handbrake and puts his hand over Brendon’s.
“It’s nothing,” Brendon says again. “I just kind of had a fight with my parents.”
“Right.” Spencer has a limit to how much for an idiot he can be. He’s not using Brendon, not like this. “And the last thing you feel like is getting all dressed up and going somewhere where you have to be on your best behaviour.”
“No,” Brendon says quickly. “No, this is great. We can- I promise I’ll have a good time.”
Spencer shakes his head. He takes the next left and heads them back the way they came.
“Spencer?” Brendon’s voice goes quiet like he thinks Spencer might be angry with him. Without having any idea about the context, he’s suddenly furious with Brendon’s parents.
“Let’s do something more fun, yeah?” he says. He turns them onto Ryan’s street and pulls up outside the house.
Brendon looks at him sharply. “What?”
Spencer just climbs out, crossing around the front of the car to pull the door open for Brendon. Brendon frowns at him in confusion as he climbs out.
It doesn’t occur to Spencer that taking Brendon home is worse than taking him out and letting Tom hear about it, until they’re already inside the house. He’s surprised by just how relieved he feels when it turns out that Tom isn’t in.
Inside, Brendon copies Spencer’s example by kicking off his shoes then follows him through the house. Spencer hasn’t known Brendon long, but he already knows that it’s strange to see Brendon so still and compliant. He seems smaller like this, folded in on himself like he’s expecting to catch himself on something sharp.
Spencer puts his hand on Brendon’s arm when they reach the living room and Brendon leans into him. “How about we watch something?” Spencer asks.
Brendon just looks at him. “Spencer, seriously, you don’t have to- I can just go.”
“Brendon,” Spencer says in his firmest voice. He sweeps his arm out to show the insane number of DVDs that Jon and Ryan own between them.
Brendon shrugs. He tucks himself up on the sofa and puts his bare feet up on the coffee table. “Something mindless?”
“Desperate Housewives?” Spencer asks, picking on the most mindless thing he sees. He makes a mental note to give Ryan shit for owning that later.
Brendon pulls up a smile. “Please.”
Spencer stands over him, DVD case in one hand, watching him pick at the cuffs of his pants. Spencer doesn’t know this kid but he wants to take away whatever’s hurting him. It’s a weird thing for him to be feeling, he knows. Contrary to what his mom claims, Spencer doesn’t have a complex for fixing people, he’s only ever wanted to fix Ryan. Wanting to fix someone else is a new feeling for him.
“Come on,” he says, holding out his hand. “Let’s watch this in my room.”
Brendon’s head snaps up. “Spencer Smith,” he starts, but Spencer hushes him.
“It’s more comfortable,” he says. Also no one will accidentally stumble across them.
Brendon takes Spencer’s hand and lets him pull him to his feet. He doesn’t pull his hand away and Spencer uses it to lead him upstairs.
“Are you going to ask me awkward questions?” Brendon asks, throwing himself down onto Spencer’s bed. Spencer has a vivid flashback of the last time he saw Brendon stretched out there, of his pale skin and neat, slender body.
Spencer allows himself one slow blink then focuses on the present. “Wasn’t planning on it.”
Brendon almost-smiles. “How about you don’t ask about me and I won’t ask about Tom?”
Spencer blinks, pulled up short. “That would be good,” he says slowly. Of course Brendon knows about Tom, of course he does.
“Right,” Brendon pats the bed. “Give me some ridiculous TV, Mr Smith.”
Spencer cues up the menu on the DVD, presses play then takes the remote control and himself over to the bed.
Brendon smiles when the music starts to play and sits up against the pillows, hugging his knees to his chest. “Thank you,” he says quietly.
Spencer just nods. “Shh,” he says, nodding at the TV.
Brendon stays quiet for the first episode, but by the second, he’s laughing or gasping or heckling where appropriate. Spencer keeps finding himself shooting Brendon sidelong glances, checking on him.
After the second episode finishes, they let it go to menu. “I’m sorry about totally ruining your night,” Brendon says.
“Don’t be stupid,” Spencer says. It’s what he would say to Ryan – has said to Ryan – in similar situations. It feels safest.
Brendon doesn’t look away from the TV. “Me and my family just don’t get on great. It’s no big thing.”
“Okay,” Spencer says. He surprises himself by rewarding Brendon’s honesty with some of his own. “Me and Tom neither.”
“Yeah,” Brendon half-turns towards him. “I got that.” He looks up, expression uncertain. “Can I-?” he waves a hand between himself and Spencer.
Spencer doesn’t know what Brendon’s asking but he nods anyway.
Brendon shuffles closer, leaning into Spencer and Spencer gets it. He brings his arms up and circles Brendon’s waist, feeling slightly stiff about it, pats Brendon’s back with his other hand.
It takes Brendon a moment to respond – this was his idea, Spencer reminds himself when it starts to feel awkward – except then he sighs, one long breath blowing out against Spencer’s neck.
“Sorry, can I just stay here a minute?” he asks. “I promise I won’t drool.”
“You can stay,” Spencer says and just stops himself from adding for as long as you want, because he doesn't mean that. He can't. Brendon sighs again though and goes limp, resting his head on Spencer’s shoulder. Cautiously, Spencer touches his back.
They let the DVD play on, but pretty soon Brendon has fallen asleep.
Spencer doesn’t say anything, just lies still and strokes his fingers over Brendon’s side. He’d appreciate someone telling him what the fuck he’s doing right now. This isn’t the way you treat the dude you’re using to get back at your ex.
Spencer pretty much sucks at revenge.
He’s not sure how much later, but at some point, there’s a knock on the door. “Spence?” Ryan says, sticking his head in. He stops, taking in Spencer and sleeping Brendon, his eyes growing wide.
Spencer just puts his finger to his lips.
Ryan gives him a look, not a what-the-hell-Spence look but something more surprised and more approving.
He nods once then quietly closes the door on them.
The next few days pass in a blur. Apparently three-days-to-go is the time that all best-manly duties kick in and Spencer suddenly finds himself rushing around town trying to sort out things that Ryan’s forgotten to do or has started to do and left hanging or just this second realised that they have to have.
Jon, being Jon, is way more laid back but still, whenever Spencer sees Tom, he’s looking pretty harried too.
The good thing about being busy is that they don’t have time to be weird around each other, which is good. And every time they see each other, it’s just a little bit easier. Spencer guesses that that’s good too.
Spencer sees Brendon a couple of times and he’s back to his bouncy, perky self. But Spencer knows how to look between the lines now, and he surprises himself more than once by randomly squeezing Brendon’s fingers or touching his wrist, when he thinks Brendon is looking down.
The smiles he gets every time make him feel simultaneously less creepy for staring and more confused about what he’s doing
The day before the wedding is the rehearsal. It worries Spencer that all the shit that Ryan has planned is going to require practicing.
Spencer spends the morning of rehearsal day sitting cross-legged on the floor of Ryan’s living room, doing things with crepe paper and crazy glue. He’s kind of sticky.
Brendon is somewhere in the house, talking music with Ryan, and Spencer feels ridiculous because he can’t settle knowing Brendon is around. He’s caught somewhere between hoping to catch glimpses of him and praying that Tom doesn’t.
“Okay,” Ryan says, coming out of the utility room with Brendon at his heels. “So no power ballads, okay? You promise.”
Brendon laughs. “Well I don’t promise, I have to give what my public demands. But I’ll do my best to tone it down for your little indie soul.”
“I want a Whole New World,” Jon calls from the kitchen. “Bden, did you argue my case?”
“I did,” Brendon says. Spencer watches him pout elaborately even though Jon can’t see. “He shot me down in flames. Flames, Jon.”
“Don’t you have to go?” Ryan asks, poking Brendon in the side.
“No,” Brendon says blankly. Then, “Yes! Shit! I have to go rescue Dylan from the in-laws, how could I forget?”
He spins around, spots Spencer and beams. “Don’t you look a picture.”
Spencer would love to flip him off, but his fingers are all stuck together. “In-laws?” he asks instead, trying to sound disinterested.
“Shane’s parents,” Brendon says with a wink. “They think we’re fucking. It’s hilarious.”
He ducks down and kisses Spencer’s cheek. “Save me a dance tomorrow, okay?” he says then disappears in a whirl of lavender hoodie before Spencer can say anything.
Ryan sighs. “What are you doing?” he asks flatly.
Sadly, Spencer can’t flip him off either.
Spencer’s ninety percent sure that the only reason Ryan and Jon are having this rehearsal is to see if they can give him a nervous breakdown.
Ryan hadn’t so much as asked him to be his best man as rolled his eyes and said “duh,” when the subject came up. That was pretty much how Tom got asked too.
If Spencer had known just how much organisation it was going to take, well he wouldn’t have said no, Spencer rocks at organising, but he would have stolen a couple of Valium out of his boss’s purse first.
“No,” Ryan says, “It needs to be more.” Ryan’s been saying that a lot lately.
“More what?” Spencer asks. It’s possible he doesn’t put a suitable amount of interest into the question but seriously, he’s said it eight times already in the past half hour.
“More more.” They’ve hired out a hotel garden for the ceremony and reception and currently Ryan and Spencer and other helpful people are running around getting it all set up. Ryan has flower garlands draped over his arms from when he got distracted midway through decorating the tables. He’s wearing pinstriped trousers, a fedora with a feather tucked into the rim and Spencer thinks he might be wearing eyeliner.
“Is it me?” Spencer asks, putting his hands on his hips, “Or has ‘more’ now lost all meaning?”
Ryan’s quiet for a minute then he laughs, all the tension draining out of him. Spencer’s proud of himself for still being able to do that. “Bubble machine!” Ryan says suddenly, straightening up.
“What?” Spencer asks, although he’s afraid he already knows.
“Spence.” Ryan grabs his arm, eyes all bright and shiny. “Could we get a bubble machine, do you think?”
Right. Of course. Bubble machine. “Yeah,” he says, instead of oh my God, stop, how are you this insane? “Not for tonight?”
“No, no. For tomorrow. There should be bubbles wafting over us while we say our vows. That would be awesome, right?”
It’s twee and corny and ridiculous but so are Ryan and Jon. Spencer nods. “Unless you sneeze.” He pulls out his phone. “I’ll go make some calls.”
He plays with his phone, walking around to the side of the building where there’s reception and walks straight into Tom.
“Fuck,” Tom snaps, steadying a tower of records that are stacked up in his arms. They start to slip from his fingers and he curses again and sets them on the floor.
“Sorry,” Spencer says automatically. Then, entirely independent of his brain, his mouth says, “No date?”
Tom frowns. “Meaning what?”
Spencer shouldn’t have started this. “You seem to be making friends. That guitarist, the girl with the black bra, any others?”
Tom goes red. “Oh fuck you,” he says, straightening up from his crouch over the records. “What the fuck right do you have to criticise me? You’re the one running around town with your little hairdresser twink.”
Spencer means to slap Tom, honestly he does. Except he blinks and his hands are still by his sides but his mouth is on Tom’s.
Tom clutches handfuls of Spencer’s hair, pulling too hard, and Spencer twists them around so that they’re pressed up against the nearest wall. Spencer opens his mouth and Tom bites at his lips and-
“Fuck,” Jon’s voice says. “Shit,” Ryan’s voice says and “Oh,” says someone who definitely isn’t either of them.
Spencer shoves Tom away. He rubs at his mouth but can’t do anything about the way his breath is heaving in his chest.
“Brendon,” he says feeling a lot of things suddenly come crashing down.
“Oh,” Brendon says again, and oh god, his face.
Tom does his bit, backing away, but Brendon still looks sick, Ryan looks genuinely angry and Jon looks torn about how he should be feeling. Spencer feels embarrassed and guilty and he does what he always does when he’s cornered, refuses to back down.
“What?” he snaps at Brendon, “It’s not like you have the moral high ground here, you’re the one who bet on getting me into bed in the first place!”
Spencer expects Brendon to stumble or stutter or look shocked at having been caught out. Instead, he just gets paler and more confused-looking. “What?” he says, “What, Spencer, I would never-”
Spencer hates being lied to. “Save it,” he snaps. “I heard you, both of you. At the party, remember?” He feels his face light up with residual humiliation from hearing himself talked about like that.
Brendon just shakes his head and it’s Tom who speaks up. “Uh, Spence? You’ve got it all wrong, we weren’t-”
“I heard you,” Spencer says. He doesn’t sound as angry as he wants to. He sounds defeated and maybe he’s been lying to himself about how much he’s been hurting.
“Is that-” Brendon starts. His voice is small and Spencer doesn’t mean to feel guilty but he does. “That’s why you- That’s why you slept with me, wasn’t it? That’s why you’ve been so nice to me? Because you thought Tom bet on you and you wanted to get back at him?”
Spencer opens his mouth ready to deny it, but falls silent, feeling helpless. That’s maybe exactly what he’s been doing.
Brendon shakes his head, backs away. “I can’t, uh. Jon, I’m sorry, I can’t be here.”
Jon puts an arm around him, “I’ll drive you home,” he says. Ryan looks back and forth between them with big, stunned eyes and Spencer hasn’t seen Ryan look like that for years.
Jon kisses Ryan quick. “I’m sorry, I’ve got to-“
“Yeah,” Ryan nods. “Go, yeah. It’s okay-.” He smiles slightly. “We know how to get married, right?”
Jon flashes him a quick grin. “Damn right we do.”
No one looks at Spencer as Jon and Brendon move away. “Wait,” he says helplessly.
Ryan slaps his shoulder. “Spencer, fuck,” he says. “Let him go.” He gives Spencer another sharp look and walks away, flower garlands swinging like some kind of angry floral tail.
“Spence,” Tom says quietly. He puts his hand on Spencer’s arm, calluses against bare skin and Spencer feels… nothing. He’s not angry with Tom anymore and he’s not interested in scoring any more points. He doesn’t know why he didn’t realise that sooner. “I have no idea how much you heard at that party, but I swear to God that Brendon didn’t bet on you.”
Spencer closes his eyes and slumps back against the wall. He waves his hand slowly, indicating that Tom should go on.
“We- I don’t totally remember all of it but we were in the kitchen and he said something about thinking you were hot. And he got all tongue-tied when I told him we were together, which I thought was hilarious at the time. And I just- You know how I get when I’m in a bad place, Spence, I get mean. So I bet him he couldn’t sleep with you and he told me to go to hell.”
“What?” Spencer does not remember that bit.
“Well he asked me what the fuck my problem was and told me I shouldn’t talk about my boyfriend like that.”
“Which is true,” Spencer says automatically.
Tom nods. “Sure is.”
“But Brendon didn’t, he didn’t-?”
“And he’s been. He slept with me because he liked me? And he’s been spending time with me all week because he liked me, nothing else?” Spencer’s head is spinning.
“Yeah.” Tom gives him a quiet, sad smile. “Sucks, huh?”
Spencer presses a hand to his stomach and tries not to start yelling. “Oh God.”
Ryan’s sofa is Spencer’s favourite place in the world, Spencer decides. It’s warm and soft and if he wriggles backwards, it almost feels like it’s hugging him.
The sad thing is that Spencer isn’t even drunk. Spencer is curled up on the sofa, with a beer open on one knee but hardly touched. Ryan’s somewhere in the house, Tom stayed at the venue, and Jon’s not back yet.
Spencer feels alone and miserable, and like ten types of blazing idiot.
“You’re an idiot,” Ryan tells him. Spencer doesn’t even have the energy to jump at the unexpected voice or the mind-reading.
“Yeah,” Spencer agrees. He puts his beer down on the coffee table. He doesn’t want it anyway.
The sofa barely dips when Ryan sits down next to him. He’s changed out of his wedding clothes, and in his sweats and one of Jon’s Cubs t-shirts he looks soft and young.
“Idiot,” he repeats and holds out his arms.
Spencer makes a noise that definitely isn’t a sob. It’s just a sound that could be taken to convey that he feels like shit right now but apparently his best friend doesn’t hate him too much.
He leans into Ryan’s arms, finds the least bony place to rest his head and closes his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he whispers after a long silence.
Ryan strokes his hair back out of his face. “I don’t get what’s going with you, Spence. I thought Chicago had everything you wanted, but you’re miserable, aren’t you?”
Spencer drags in a deep breath. “I wasn’t. It was. It was so good in the beginning.” When Spencer first arrived in Chicago and Tom opened the door to his tiny, crummy loft and smiled and everything was perfect.
“But not now?” Ryan asks.
Spencer shakes his head. “I don’t know what to do. I- there’s Tom and, I-I don’t love him anymore. But there’s Brendon, and-. God, Ry, did you see his face?”
Ryan hugs him and Spencer hides his face in Ryan’s shoulder. His eyes are burning and his chest feels like it’s closing down, giving up on him.
“Okay,” Ryan says, holding him tight, holding him up. It’s the wrong way around, Spencer thinks numbly, he’s the one who’s supposed to be strong for Ryan. Except god knows Spencer can’t be strong for himself right now.
Spencer tries to pull away when they hear the door open but Ryan won’t let him, digs his fingers into Spencer’s back, just to the left of his spine, so Spencer can’t move.
“Damn,” Jon’s voice says from the doorway. “I was so prepared to be pissed at you.”
Spencer manages a small – pathetically small – laugh. “You still can be?” he says, pulling away from Ryan far enough to wipe his face off with his fingers.
Jon shakes his head. He sits down on the arm of sofa and rests his chin on the top of Spencer’s head. “You’re kind of a heartbreaker, Spencer Smith,” is all he says.
Spencer spends half the night dialling and redialling Brendon’s number. It takes until one a.m. before Brendon’s cell starts going straight to voicemail and Spencer is mostly just impressed that it took Brendon that long to turn off his phone.
He lies awake for hours after that, calling himself all the names he knows, fingering the skin on his forearm where Brendon’s number used to be and wishing he’d realised this mattered before he lost it.
He wakes up early, showers and walks straight into Tom in the kitchen.
“Spencer,” Tom says, putting down his mug and standing when Spencer just wants to walk straight back out again, “Hang on.”
“Not now, okay,” Spencer begs.
Tom catches hold of him by the wrist. “No, look,” he shuffles his feet a minute. “This Brendon kid, you’re pretty into him, right?”
“I guess,” Spencer hedges. It feels weird talking about this with Tom. “I think maybe I’m on the rebound,” he doesn’t add from you because what’s the point? They both know what’s gone down this week.
Tom shakes his head. “You’re not. You get all lit up when you think about him. That’s your in love face, Spence, not your rebound face. Believe me, I remember it.”
He reaches out and curls his fingers around Spencer’s. Spencer can’t help the desperate minute that he spends clinging back. “You should go get your boy,” Tom tells him at last.
Spencer agrees, he really does. He just wishes it didn’t feel so hopeless. “How?”
Tom grins. “He’s Ryan and Jonny’s friend, Spence. Think big.”
Spencer doesn't cry at Ryan and Jon's wedding.
It doesn’t matter what they later claim to have on film, because it doesn’t happen.
It is possible that at one point something flies into his eye – just as Ryan, ridiculous but glowing in all his beads and shimmery scarves, and Jon, barefoot in jeans, toes digging into the Aladdin-esque carpets they’d bought for the occasion, clasp hands and promise to stay together forever - but that isn’t the same as crying.
Coincidentally, Spencer can report that his exotic Chicago tie makes an awesomely absorbent handkerchief.
Afterwards, Spencer is the first person Ryan hugs.
“Oh my God,” Ryan says into Spencer’s ear. “Oh my God, I got married.”
Spencer squeezes him. “Don’t freak out,” he orders. “I will mock you forever if you freak out.”
When Ryan pulls back, his grin is blinding. “Totally not freaking out,” he says. Spencer’s mom taps Ryan on the shoulder and Ryan turns, willingly hugging her next. That’s a first as far as Spencer knows.
Spencer smiles and moves away, leaving Ryan to have his day. He definitely deserves it.
Brendon isn’t here yet - Spencer hadn’t known how to ask, but Jon told him so he didn’t have to – but he’s coming for the reception because he’s promised to sing.
Spencer… is going to do something big and win him over and convince Brendon that he isn’t an asshole. He just doesn’t know quite what that will be yet. He wonders if any of Ryan’s wedding magazines have a section on the best way for the best man to apologise to the boy whose heart he trampled on like it didn’t matter.
“Spencer Smith,” says a voice behind him. Spencer recognises it, but for a moment he can’t place it. Then he looks around and sees Brent Wilson.
“Fuck,” he says, “Hi.”
“Hey.” Brent grins and holds out his hand. Brent’s grown into a big guy. He’s tall and bulky and he’s cut his hair. He looks fantastic. “Good to see you.”
“You too,” Spencer says automatically. His brain feels a bit buffeted. “What are you up to, man?”
Brent swings his arms. Spencer doesn’t remember him being this easy in his skin before. “Graduated. Working for my dad.” His smile widens. “Me and my girl have a baby on the way.”
“Oh my God,” Spencer says, finding himself laughing in amazement. He and Ryan were never as close to Brent as they were to each other, but that was more about the two of them being freakily tight than anything Brent did wrong. Brent used to be one of Spencer’s best friends and Spencer can’t remember what he was thinking, letting them lose touch.
He opens his mouth to say something else, congratulations probably, when he hears the twang of a guitar being dropped and he looks up to see that the band have arrived. The band and Brendon.
“Look,” Spencer says. “Can we catch up later? I swear I’m not blowing you off, just there’s someone I have to talk to.”
“Sure,” Brent says easily. “Ryan’s got my number.” He follows the line of Spencer’s gaze and smiles in slight confusion. “And so does Brendon.”
Irrationally, Spencer feels his cheeks go pink. “Awesome,” he says, “I will totally see you soon.”
“Go away, Spencer,” Brendon says before Spencer can say so much as hi. He’s got a guitar resting across his thighs and his knuckles are white around the neck.
“Please,” Spencer says, “Please just listen to me.”
Brendon strums a chord, makes a satisfied face and strums another one. He’s got his head down so Spencer can’t see his eyes. “Look,” he says. “I’m just here to play some songs for my friends. Please don’t make me ruin this for them.”
He still sounds so sad; Spencer hates himself.
“I-” Spencer starts. He swallows hard. He puts his hand on Brendon’s shoulder and squeezes once. Brendon’s shoulder is warm and a little sweaty below his shirt. “I’m sorry.”
Brendon nods. He twitches his nose and Spencer wonders if he feels as close to crying in frustration as Spencer does.
Spencer doesn’t want to give up this easily, but he doesn’t know how to make things better. And he’s so damn scared of screwing this up more.
So he walks away.
“Okay?” Jon asks, putting his hand on Spencer’s back. His pupils are blown and his grin is a little sloppy. Spencer is automatically more relaxed about the speech he has to give later.
“I’m good,” he lies, patting Jon’s arm. “How’s it feel to be an old married man?”
Jon laughs. “I’m gonna start wearing socks with sandals and grow a beer belly and he won’t be able to walk out because he’s stuck with me.”
Spencer drags up a smile. “That is one cunning plan, dude,” he says.
Jon wraps an arm around Spencer’s shoulders and starts walking him towards the tables where guests are starting to seat themselves. Spencer’s up on the long trestle with his parents and Jon’s parents and Ryan and Jon and Tom.
When Spencer and Jon reach the table, Spencer’s parents are looking the other way while Tom hands Ryan a joint. Jon’s mother is leaning over Tom to get a drag.
Ryan raises his eyebrows when Spencer sits down beside him. “Want?” he asks, joint held professionally between two fingers.
Spencer shakes his head. His mother is sitting next to him for fuck‘s sake. Then he takes a deep breath and thinks why the hell not. He’s twenty-three; he’s allowed to be irresponsible if he wants to be.
The smoke hits his lungs like a memory. Jon got him started smoking up but it was Tom who used to press a joint into his hands when school was getting too much and they’d sit out on the roof in silence for hours. Spencer used to be fun, he knows he did. He has no idea where that went.
“Hey,” Ryan says, jostling his arm. “No sad faces on my wedding day, dude.”
Spencer pulls his fakest and widest smile just to watch Ryan recoil. “This is my happy face,” he corrects.
Ryan raises his eyebrows but Spencer shakes his head. He’s not quite ready to share yet.
He jumps when someone taps a microphone then groans when he looks up and sees that his dad has stood up, microphone in one hand and his speech notes in the other. Oh God, Spencer thinks and tries to hide in his seat until it’s over.
In actual fact, it’s not that bad. Spencer’s dad glosses nicely over why Ryan has no family of his own here today, dwells far too long on every embarrassing thing Ryan and Spencer did while growing up (and he makes sure to emphasise that it was Ryan and Spencer, which Spencer doesn’t think is fair at all. It’s not like it’s his wedding), and he doesn’t end it on too sappy a note.
Then it’s Jon’s dad’s turn, then it’s Spencer’s.
Jon and Ryan had decided that they were more than happy to let everyone else do their talking for them so they just sit pretty in the middle of the top table, smiling smugly while everyone else undergoes the torture of public speaking.
Spencer takes the microphone from Jon’s dad and realises that his hands are sweating. He inhales deeply, pulls on his most confident face and sets his shoulders.
Then he looks up and sees Brendon, sitting on the side of the stage beside the band’s drummer. His hands are wrapped around the edge of the stage and he’s looking at Spencer with this open expression which he turns his head to hide when their eyes meet.
It all clicks for Spencer, like a lightning bolt or something, that this is his chance. This is his something big.
“I’ve known Ryan all my life,” he starts. He makes a face in the direction of his dad. “As you’ve been hearing.” Several people laugh and the tension that’s renting space inside his belly eases.
He looks out across all these people, most of whom he doesn’t know, all of whom he should because they’re the people who are important to Ryan, and he makes a decision. Whether or not he can get Brendon to forgive him, he’s not losing any more of the life he should be having here.
He’d really like Brendon to forgive him though. He looks up at Brendon and can’t look away. Brendon fidgets under his gaze, and Spencer watches in dismay as he gets up, starts to walk away.
“Which is why I think they’re going to forgive me for flaking on them,” Spencer improvises fast, watching as Brendon nears the corner that will take him around the hotel and out of Spencer’s sight. If this were a movie or Spencer were Hugh Grant, he’d be able to open his mouth and say I’m sorry or I was angry but it wasn’t at you and I didn’t mean to hurt you, he’d say I love you and Brendon would be stuck to the spot, would turn slowly and smile and Spencer would jump down off the stage and kiss him.
Everybody would clap and Ryan would get mocking rights for life and Spencer would be cool with that.
He can’t do that though, so he does the next best thing. He makes desperate eyes at Ryan who stares at him for a second before nodding and smiling and waving him off. “Go,” he says. Spencer hesitates a second longer, he really is flaking here. He’s not the sort of person who does impulsive.
Tom tips the balance for him. He comes up behind Spencer, takes the mic and smacks him on the shoulder. “Dude,” he says, “Go.”
Brendon isn’t hard to find. He’s leaning against the wall just around the corner of the building. There are sunglasses on top of his head but his eyes are closed tight against the sunlight, the big dark circles under them stark against his pale face.
“Brendon,” Spencer says quietly.
Brendon doesn’t jump so much as stiffen. “Don’t you have a speech to make?” he asks, not opening his eyes.
“No.” Spencer steps up to him. “I left.”
That gets Brendon’s eyes open. “You left?”
“I thought, and Ryan agreed, that there was something more important that I had to do.”
“What was that?” Brendon asks, looking at him levelly.
Spencer swallows, forces himself to breathe. “I had to apologise to you.”
Brendon’s mouth twists and he looks to the side. “Apology accepted,” he says thickly.
“No, you don’t get it.” It’s written clear in the downturn of Brendon’s mouth that he doesn’t understand what Spencer wants him to know. Spencer wishes one of them were telepathic. “I’m sorry.”
Brendon laughs. “I get that,” he says. “It’s what I meant by ‘apology accepted’.”
Spencer wraps both hands around Brendon’s sleeve. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I can’t believe I- I hate myself for-. Brendon please look at me.”
Brendon does and Spencer wishes he hadn’t. There’s no light in his eyes. “I get that I was a distraction,” Brendon says quietly. “And you’ll be going back to your perfect life in Chicago with your perfect boyfriend. That’s what happens, Spence, the spazzy hometown fuck doesn’t get the boy.”
“I hate my life in Chicago ,” Spencer forces out. He doesn’t mean to say it, but it’s true. “My job sucks. I miss Ryan and my mom so much it hurts. My perfect boyfriend drinks too much and resents the hours I work and is sick of me because I grew up different from how we were both expecting.”
He has to swallow after he says all that. The words leave his mouth tasting like acid.
Brendon’s expression softens. “Spence,” he says. He shakes free of Spencer’s hands and puts his palms on either side of Spencer’s neck. Spencer realises that one of them is shaking; he thinks it might be both.
Spencer understands that Brendon is just trying to reassure him, isn’t actually forgiving him, but they’re so close and Brendon’s lips are full and chapped and a little parted.
He presses his mouth against Brendon’s.
Brendon makes a small noise, almost a sigh but he doesn’t respond to the kiss. Spencer gives him a second more then stops, their mouths open and together, sharing air, but not kissing.
Spencer turns his head just far enough that he can speak. Brendon’s cheek is soft and only slightly bristly against his lips. “I want to stay,” Spencer tells him. His heart is pounding and he can feel Brendon’s heartbeat echoing through their chests, lodging in Spencer’s throat. “I want to see if I can get you to forgive me and maybe like, find out where I got so uptight and try to reverse it.”
Brendon shakes his head. There’s a tiny smile at the corner of his mouth. “I think you’ll have your work cut out.”
Spencer’s heart sinks, but he nods. “I know. Brendon, I’m so-”
But Brendon’s grinning wider. “I meant you’ll have to work pretty hard to loosen up; you’re pretty stressy.” He rubs a hand over the end of his nose, smiling behind his fingers. “Those other things are pretty much a given. I’m kind of a sucker for big, almost-public declarations.”
Spencer can feel his own face crack into a grin. “I was gonna do it on the stage,” he confesses, “With the microphone and everything.”
Brendon laughs, hiding his face in Spencer’s shoulder. “Oh, I would have died,” he says, sounding pretty happy about it.
Spencer bends his head down until he can catch the corner of Brendon’s mouth with his lips. Brendon straightens up to meet him.
The kiss is soft at first, just a light brush of their lips. Spencer smiles, pulling back just to check that Brendon’s smiling too. He is.
Spencer pushes Brendon’s hair back out of his eyes, sliding his hand around to cup Brendon’s skull.
“I think I might love you,” he says.
Brendon’s smile goes even wider. “You’ve just met me,” he says, kissing Spencer’s thumb when he swipes it over Brendon’s lower lip.
Spencer shrugs. “Still,” he says and pulls Brendon close.
Spencer probably deserves the amount of shit he gets him when they rejoin the wedding party.
People stare. People he’s never seen before stare. And Spencer doesn’t give a shit.
Brendon gives Spencer one more kiss before running up on stage and stealing the microphone from the bass player who’d been filling in. The bass player looks mightily relieved.
“Hey, guys,” Brendon says, “This is the most awesome wedding ever,” before launching into a little bit of Queen.
Spencer stares for a minute, watching the way Brendon moves up there. He’s all confidence and tiny hips and big, swelling notes and Spencer finds it impossible to believe that he’s only had this in his life for a week.
Ryan and Jon are off to one side of the dance floor, doing something that might be dancing, might just be some kind of shared zombie interlude.
Spencer lets them shuffle and cling for a while longer then slips through the dancers and taps Jon on the shoulder. “Can I borrow your husband?” he asks. The grins he gets from both of them at the word ‘husband’ are stupid and ridiculous and make him smile too.
Jon kisses Ryan’s cheek then hands him off.
“What’s up?” Ryan asks. There are flowers behind his ear.
“Nothing,” Spencer says and takes his hands. “Dance with me?”
Ryan raises his eyebrows. They’re as close as two people can be but they’ve never been as touchy with each other as they are with everyone else. Spencer puts one hand on Ryan’s hip and the other in the middle of his back and Ryan rolls his eyes but steps close and curls both hands around Spencer’s shoulders.
“How come you’re leading?” he asks.
Spencer just lifts his eyebrows. Ryan rolls his eyes and sticks his tongue out.
“Come here,” Spencer says, still laughing. He pulls Ryan closer, until they’re pressed together and starts to move them slowly, matching the beat of the song that the band and Brendon are playing now. It’s something he doesn’t recognise but it sounds like the Beatles and knowing Ryan and Jon it probably is.
Ryan rests his chin on Spencer’s shoulder and lets himself be moved.
“Want to know a secret?” Spencer asks after a minute.
Ryan hums. “Always.”
“I’m moving back to Vegas,” he says and stumbles to a halt when Ryan stops dead, pulling back to stare at him.
“Oh my God,” Ryan says, suddenly beaming at him. “Seriously?”
Spencer grins back at him. He feels sort of ridiculous but his insides are bubbling with an unexpected excitement and he knows this is the right decision. “What do you think?” He doesn’t remember the last time he let anyone else have an opinion on his life; it feels good.
“Fuck yes,” Ryan tells him, grabbing Spencer and hugging him. When he pulls back, he looks at Spencer closely. “If you’re sure?”
Spencer nods. “I’m sure. Dad says there’s this new music company that might hire me.”
“Oh man, yeah,” Ryan says. “They’re awesome. Brendon’s roommate Shane works for them, he can totally get you an in-” Ryan stops. “Assuming you’ve smoothed things over with Brendon?”
Spencer feels his grin grow wider. It probably looks ridiculous and he’s afraid that he looks kind of like how he always teases Jon and Ryan for looking. Well not afraid exactly; they’re pretty fucking happy, he thinks.
Ryan laughs at him. “You’re so fucking smitten,” he says. “Why the fuck are you dancing with me?”
Spencer rolls his eyes. “I had to tell you I was staying. Dumbass.”
Ryan rolls his eyes but he still looks pleased.
Spencer turns to see Tom standing behind him. He doesn’t let himself stiffen. “Hey.”
It’s getting dark and a lot of people have filtered off home. It’s just what Spencer privately thinks of as core people left now. Crystal sitting on the grass with Ryan and Jon, someone’s guitar across her lap as they try to teach her to play something; Spencer’s parents, Jon’s parents and Jon’s grandma and Spencer’s grandpa slow dancing in the middle of the room; and Jackie sitting to the side of the stage, staring at the keyboard player like he just might be Jesus.
“I’m gonna go,” Tom tells him, pushing his bangs back out of his eyes. “Work called this morning to say they’d rearranged a shoot for tomorrow so I changed my flight.”
“Okay. I-” Spencer just looks at him. He doesn’t know what to say.
“So I guess,” Tom starts to say then stops and laughs. “How the fuck am I supposed to say goodbye to you, Spencer Smith?”
Spencer shakes his head. He’s not mad anymore and he knows this is for the best but he can’t help the choked up feeling he’s getting in his throat. “I love you,” he says quickly. “I always did.”
Tom nods. His eyes are wet. “Me too.” He laughs again. It’s forced but Spencer appreciates it. “It’s not like we’re never going to see each other again, right? Jon and Ryan won’t let us get away with that shit. It’ll be you and Brendon and me and… William and we’ll be the best of friends.”
“William?” Spencer asks.
Tom makes a face. “What? My imaginary boyfriend can totally be called William.”
“Right,” Spencer manages.
Tom smiles. “So Ryan says you’re staying?” He doesn’t sound exactly unhappy about it. “I’ll pack up your shit and find you a remover if you want?”
Spencer nods. “Please.”
“Okay,” Tom says. They stand there, awkward. Spencer doesn’t know if he should try for a hug or not. Then Tom’s cell vibrates. “And I’m going,” he says.
He leans in, gives Spencer a quick, clean hug, and moves swiftly through the crowd. Spencer lets himself watch until Tom’s out of sight then puts it in a mental box marked done.
The band wind down after an hour or so and someone hooks up an old, vintage record player to the speakers and starts up The Beatles’ White Album.
Brendon jumps down from the stage and shuffles up to where Spencer and the Cab’s guitarist are standing by the bar. The guitarist’s name is Ian, he’s from Seattle, his hair is sort of terrifying and he blushes when he talks about his drummer so he probably didn’t sleep with Tom that time.
Spencer knows he’s a hypocrite for being pleased about that.
“Hey,” Brendon says to Ian then a quieter, “Hi,” for Spencer.
It’s strange to see Brendon shy, but Spencer gets it. Whatever’s happening with them feels really huge, yet they hardly even know each other.
Ian looks between them and laughs. “Oh man, you two are gonna be hilarious, aren’t you?”
Brendon ducks his head and Spencer feels himself blush. Ian laughs again. Spencer thinks he might be evil.
“Right,” Ian says, “So I’m gonna go over there and find Shane so we can mock you from afar.”
Brendon gives him the finger and he runs off, laughing. “I have horrible friends,” Brendon says sadly. “Yours are much nicer.”
“Dude,” Spencer says, “Mine are stoned and probably teaching my baby sister to play rude songs.”
“Yes,” Brendon agrees, snapping his fingers. “See? Way nicer.”
“So,” Brendon says, hands in his pockets. “This is kind of more awkward than you’d expect considering we’ve already got the icky first time sex out of the way and have been sort-of dating for a week.”
Spencer nods. “Yeah. It’s not bad though?” he asks, because it’s not. At least, he doesn’t think it is.
Brendon shakes his head so fast, his hair flies out. “It’s super,” he says then makes a face. “Super? Huh, who says that?”
Spencer fits his hands around Brendon’s hips and tugs him forward. “You do,” he says, kissing Brendon’s cheek. Brendon sighs and puts his arms around his waist.
They’re not dancing, not really, but they might be moving to the music just a little.
“Okay?” Brendon asks after a while. His head is on Spencer’s shoulder.
“Yeah,” Spencer says, “Yes.” He really is.